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Thursday, April 29, 2021

General Motors Bets Big in 3D Printing For Vehicles


General Motors announced the opening of the 15,000-square-foot (1,393-square meter) Additive Industrialization Center (AIC), a ground-up facility exclusively dedicated to productionizing 3D printing technology in the automotive industry. The AIC is the capstone of GM’s expertise and increased investment in 3D printing over the last several years.

The comprehensive facility includes 24 3D printers, which create polymer and metal solutions. GM’s additive design and manufacturing team leverages a number of processes at the AIC, including selective laser sintering, selective laser melting, Multi-Jet Fusion, and fused deposition modeling.

GM has a history of using 3D-printed rapid prototypes to check form and fit. Today, many of the parts the AIC produces are functional prototypes used on pre-production vehicles in various testing environments.

Early integration vehicles and test benches are often equipped with 3D-printed parts that can undergo the same testing as a conventionally tooled part.

3D printing functional prototypes can help eliminate expensive early tooling costs. As a result, engineers have the ability to iterate quickly, make design changes and reduce development times. For example, the team 3D printed the brake cooling ducts used for the development of the Chevrolet Corvette. The 3D-printed ducts saved nine weeks of development and reduced costs by over 60 percent in the process.

GM is also producing a significant number of 3D-printed tools used for assembling vehicles. Manufacturing tooling comes in many shapes and forms, such as hand-apply tools, automation components, and rapid-response solutions for production site launches.

3D printing often enables the team to consolidate the components of a part into a single, optimized design. The result is tools that are lighter, more ergonomic, and less complex.

For the launch of GM’s all-new full-size SUVs, the team 3D printed nearly 100 hand tools for the body shop at Arlington Assembly. Typically, these tools would be made of aluminum, weighing anywhere from 10 to 40 pounds. The new designs, constructed with a nylon carbon fiber composite, weigh as little as three pounds and virtually eliminated the lead time for ordering part changes.

With the AIC, GM is making its 3D-printing capability more sophisticated and responsive across its global manufacturing facilities.

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